Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Deconstructing the Food Pyramid: An Interview with Susan Levin, M.S., R.D

Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Deconstructing the Food Pyramid: An Interview with Susan Levin, M.S., R.D

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Q.: What is the Food Pyramid?

A.: The Food Pyramid is a nutritional or food guide. It is one of a handful of guides set forth to the public by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.). A food guide is oftentimes a diagram depicting what one's diet should consist of on a day-today basis, including serving sizes of specific types of foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, and protein. The food groups traditionally represented on food diagrams, including the most recent edition of the U.S.D.A.'s food guide, MyPlate, has always been fruits, grains, vegetables, and protein.

What has changed from the Food Pyramid Guide, first published by the U.S.D.A. in 1992, in MyPlate, published in June of 2011 ? Daily servings are gone, replaced with individual meal suggestions in the form of what your plate should consist of. MyPlate divides foods into four percentages: approximately 30 percent grains, 30 percent vegetables, 20 percent fruits, and 20 percent protein, along with a second smaller circle representing a side serving of dairy such as low or nonfat milk or yogurt. Accompanying the percentages are suggestions such as "make your grains whole, .... vary your protein food choices," and controlling portion size.

Q.: What are the four food groups?

A.: The four food groups represented on food guides including the most recent edition of the U.S.D.A.'s food guide, MyPlate, has always been fruits, grains, vegetables, and protein. There is a controversy over the definition of protein because it can be gotten through other food groups. The section classified as protein is open to interpretation as well, it can mean anything from dry beans to red meat to white meat to legumes. Traditionally, the recommended number of servings for protein is 2-3 per day, which was meant to be a maximum rather than a standard, and even that was meant for farmers in the food guide's early publications by way of almanacs. Dairy is also a controversial addition to the food guide for many of the same reasons. There is no scientific evidence that the body requires dairy products to live; examples can be seen in cultures where little to no dairy is consumed past breast-feeding. The nutrients found in dairy can be found in fruits, vegetables, and grains. Dietitians and nutrition experts point to the meat and dairy industries, who lobby the U.S.D.A. to emphasize their product. That pressure has kept the food guide biased even to this day with MyPlate.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Q.: Is this guideline, with a greater emphasis on fruits and vegetables, a better depiction of what one should consume on a daily basis, or does it add to the confusion as a result of its new abstract layout?

A.: Yes, it is a better depiction than the Food Pyramid guide and My Pyramid of what we should be eating. With the older dietary guides, realizing that one's diet should consist of 50 percent fruits and vegetables was harder to see because of the imposition of meat and dairy industries pushing the U.S.D.A. to emphasize its products, which in turn offsets the concept of a healthy diet.

Q.: Some critics argue that the protein section is unnecessary to include; should it still be represented somewhere in MyPlate?

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

A.: I do not think that something as ambiguous as protein should be on MyPlate. While they have done an excellent job with representing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, the U.S.D.A. would have really hit a home run by just being honest and saying legumes. Legumes are a food group that includes but is not limited to beans, peas, and lentils. They are among the healthiest sources of protein as well as high in fiber and other nutrients. However, the U.S.D.A., by wanting to use a word that essentially would make 'everybody happy,' landed on a vague word: protein. This might cause the public to be confused into thinking that eating things bacon, sausage, and fried chicken count as healthy protein servings. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.